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Using Your Head When Buying A Used Vehicle

How To Buy A Used Vehicle

The cost of acquiring a vehicle often drives people to contemplate buying a used vehicle. Saving money is fine but minimizing headaches is even better. Apply these tips in your search for a used vehicle:
  • Purchase a full Autocheck vehicle history report, Carfax report, or for the vehicle. Do not rely solely on the report(s) provided by the seller.
  • Review the Consumer Reports Buying Guide, Car and Driver magazine, or another similarly reputable source in learning about your vehicle.
  • Ask the seller for all vehicle service and maintenance records.
  • Avoid Internet-only sales or other transactions where you do not see the vehicle in person prior to purchase.
  • If buying from an individual, demand to see the original vehicle title before agreeing to purchase.
  • Hire a mechanic or vehicle inspector to check the vehicle. Have the inspector provide you with a written inspection report and use it in your negotiations with the seller.
  • Get all promises of future repairs, warranties and future vehicle service in writing and signed by the person making the promises.
  • Have the seller state in writing if the vehicle has ever been salvaged, flood-damaged, reconstructed, or damaged in a collision.
  • Obtain vehicle financing through your bank or financial institution. Try to avoid seller-financing unless you get really great terms.
  • If you are dealing with a vehicle dealer, ask for at least a 30-day warranty. Get a written warranty signed by the seller specifically identifying all vehicle systems that are covered and the percentage of the repairs (labor, parts and materials) the seller will cover.
  • If you buy a vehicle “as is”, strongly consider getting an extended warranty also known as a vehicle service contract BUT….before you purchase any such extended warranty or vehicle service contract be sure to learn what it covers, how long it lasts, and calculate if it is worth purchasing. This may also change your mind about purchasing the vehicle.
  • Get a sales contract signed by you and the seller that lists the following: full names and addresses of you and the seller(s); vehicle year, make, model, color and VIN number; date of purchase, odometer reading for vehicle, purchase price and all taxes and fees paid (and by whom); interest rate and all financing terms (number of payments, payment due dates, grace period, late fees, any right of repossession).

For further tips and resources on purchasing a used vehicle click here to visit the O'Neal Law Office. Free Information Center.  Best wishes in your search for a good deal.

Research websites such as,, in negotiating the vehicle price.